Shifting Within Thumb Position

Here we are talking exclusively about shifts within thumbposition, independently of which fingerboard region (Neck, Intermediate or Thumb) we might be in. In other words, the defining characteristic of the shifts that we will discuss here, is that the thumb remains on the fingerboard before, during, and after the shift. Shifts On (and To) the Thumb fit into this category but have their own separate page (click on the highlighted link).

On this page we are looking at “Whole-Hand Shifts“, in which the entire hand moves. For shifts in which one part of the hand remains still (which are very common in thumbposition), see the page Non-Whole-Hand Movements in Thumbposition.

We will categorise (differentiate) the shifts within thumbposition according to their finger choreography:

Scale/Arpeggio-Type Shifts In Thumb Position

Assisted Shifts in Thumbposition

Same-finger Shifts in Thumbposition


Shifting on (or to) doublestops is much more difficult than shifting to single notes but within doublestopped shifts we also have an “order-of-difficulty” progression, between two different types of shifts, which are, in order of increasing difficulty:

  • shifts in which the handframe stays the same
  • shifts in which the handframe changes during the shift

This is best illustrated with some examples:

WH regular and irregular

In the examples of the first five lines, each finger of the doublestop moves the same distance, hence the handframe does not change during the shifts and the hand can move like a solid, stable “block”. These are the easiest type of doublestopped shifts. By contrast, in the last three lines of examples, the distance moved by each finger of the doublestop during the shift is different, hence the handframe must change during the shift, contracting or extending the distance between the playing fingers by one semitone. This makes these shifts considerably harder to play in tune.